File photo: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Photograph:( PTI )
It is misnomer to think that the nomination of a judge in the Parliament amounts to compromising the independence of Judiciary
The nomination of former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, to Rajya Sabha after three months of his retirement has sparked controversy and concern in the public domain. Though the onslaught of Corona pandemic has deflected the public attention from this important political development and other matters of national significance, it is important to join the debate: whether the nomination of Justice Ranjan Gogoi compromises the independence of Indian judiciary and has further led to the concentration of powers in the hands of Executive- which poses a threat to Indian democracy - as has mostly been argued by the critics of the Modi government.
Besides the issue of constitutional propriety, the nomination of Justice Gogoi has largely been seen as a case of quid pro quo/political favouritism in exchange of his series of Judgments including Ayodhya issue, Rafale case, the delay in the matter of hearing over the abolition of Article 370, Electoral Bonds etc, which appears to favour the government of the day.
But it seems that none of these allegations has substance. It is the matter of fact that it is the same opposition which had hailed the Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Chelameswar and others as ‘hero of democracy’ for raising their voice against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra. ( In January 2018, Justices Gogoi, Lokur, J Chelameswar, and Kurian Joseph, the most senior judges in the Supreme Court, called a press conference to question the conduct of Justice Dipak Misra on the allocation of important cases)
It is another matter that with judgement related to decriminalisation of IPC 377 and Protection of Individual Privacy and other progressive judgments, much of the liberal-leftist critique of Justice Dipak Misra vanished in thin air.
Second, it is a myth that government organs work with ‘complete independence’, rather they work in harmony and cooperative framework with a larger goal of governing the country.
Third, whenever a strong personality has dominated Executive in India, the issue of compromising the independence of the judiciary has been raised in the public domain, though without much merit. Indian democracy has matured and moved forward amidst such allegations in the past.
Fourth, Indian politics is riddled with a large list of appointments of Judges including Chief Justice of the High Court and Supreme Court to various Commissions and nominations in Rajya Sabha. In fact, the Constitution of India provides 12 nominations of people with exceptional abilities and recognitions in the various fields into Rajya Sabha with a view to benefit the nation from their talents. I believe that Justice Ranjan Gogoi deserves such recognition and an honourable place in Rajya Sabha as an independent member. It is misnomer to think that the nomination of a judge in the Parliament amounts to compromising the independence of Judiciary; rather law-making exercise is benefited from experiences of such legal luminaries. In fact, all sitting judges of Supreme Court in the United Kingdom find an automatic place in the House of Lords after their retirement without ever generating a controversy that such an exercise or political tradition cripples the independence of UK judicial system.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)